Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, Mirrormask
(HarperCollins, 2005)

Mirrormask is a tiny little hardcover book, very nearly pocket-sized (well, if you have large pockets), and quite lovely from cover to cover. The front dust jacket illustration is a haunting composite of two images from the movie -- the top half is Helena, the bottom half is the Dark Queen -- while the back cover is one of Helena's drawings (Dave McKean's, really), plus a significant quote from the early part of the movie. Between those two covers is a retelling of the movie's plot, from Helena's point of view. It's worth noting that the movie precedes this novella; the latter is not the source material for the movie.

The text is largely verbatim from the movie (for a plot summary, see that Mirrormask review), though a few changes have been made here and there, generally to accommodate the shift to first person. Several of the later chapters have additional text, and are particularly expanded, giving readers more insight to Helena's frame of mind as she sets things aright, and a bit more of a wrap-up back in the waking world. Those who have seen the movie will relish these added tidbits.

Throughout the volume, stills from the movie alternate with more drawings and pages of actual text. Moreover, black pages with white text alternate with black text on white, the former indicating Helena's stay in the Dark Queen's demesnes. The layout is clever and eye-catching, text flowing around images, or images across pages. Standard text layout has been abandoned, and text scampers across the page at an angle, or suddenly grows several font sizes larger, or undulates through a speech. It takes a bit of getting used to at first, especially if you're sleepy, but overall it adds to the book's charm.

Mirrormask can easily be read independently of the movie, being entirely self-contained., and its extra glimpses into Helena's psyche enhance the movie-goer's experience. So, all in all, a most excellent little book to add to one's library.

[April Gutierrez]